Sunday, December 18, 2005

Guardian: NSA Spied on UN in 2003; OKed by Condi?

I don't recall reading about this spying scandal back in 2003 in the American press, do you? A Google search returns no hits for U.S. stories appearing about the National Security Agency's surveillance of United Nations delegates opposed to the Iraq war.

Interesting, to say the least, that the 2003 U.N. spying may have been implemented by Condi Rice.

From the London-based Guardian of March 2, 2003:

> The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

> Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

> The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input
. [...]

> The existence of the surveillance operation, understood to have been requested by President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is deeply embarrassing to the Americans in the middle of their efforts to win over the undecided delegations.

The text of the leaked NSA memo obtained by the Guardian is here.

NSA's alleged surveillance came up at the March 3, 2003, daily press briefing at the White House, conducted by Ari Fleischer:

> Q May I also ask you about a report in The Observer newspaper in London, of a memo purported to be from the NSA -- an email message from a man who actually works at the NSA they established -- in which he describes a surge in surveillance of U.N. Security Council members to see what these nations are thinking about an Iraq vote. What's your response?

> MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, as a matter of long-standing policy, the administration never comments on anything involving any people involved in intelligence. For example, if somebody were to say to me, is Libya an object of American intelligence -- I would never answer that question yes or no. The administration does not answer questions of that nature. We don't answer who does or does not work in the intelligence community. Once you start that, you start getting into process of elimination and we do not do that about any question, about any report, as a blanket matter of policy.

> Q But, then, if you're a Cameroonian diplomat or a French diplomat at the United Nations, because of what you just said, you're going to have to operate on the assumption that the United States is bugging you.

> MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's a blanket matter of policy that we do not answer questions of that nature, whether it's true or not true, and I'm not indicating to you whether it is true or not true. It's a blanket matter of approach and policy that predates this administration. [...]

> Q Ari, I have two questions for you. Following up on Terry's question about the article in The Observer, you say you never do comment on intelligence matters. But the article also specifies that six of the countries the U.S. is trying to get to vote in favor of the second resolution are being monitored. If they were to ask the U.S. government about that, would they also get an answer, we don't comment on intelligence matters?

> MR. FLEISCHER: My answer is the same in all cases, and that's the long-standing answer and policy, as you're all very familiar with here. [...]

> Q Ari, is there -- going back to the British newspaper, The Observer, is there really a need to spy on the non-permanent members of the Security Council, to wiretap their phones? Is it true what the newspaper is --

> MR. FLEISCHER: I just go right back to my answer to Terry on that question. And, again, I hope you can appreciate, the reason that these questions never get answered -- and not to infer that that means a yes or a no, because it's impossible for you to make those judgments, because we are not -- I'm not indicating to you yes or no.

> But I gave an example at the beginning. If I said, yes, we are, you would know something about what we do with our intelligence. If I say, no, we're not, you start asking that question around the world to try to use the process of elimination to find out what the United States does, from an intelligence point of view.

> And that is not a position that I think the American people would want the government to go down the line and start to describe every specific item of intelligence. So I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no, I'm stating the long-standing policy of the government on questions exactly like this, which do come up from time to time. [...]

Almost three months later, on June 6, 2003, one of the reporters on the Guardian story appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Lateline" program and repeated the charge that Rice may have authorized the spying on U.N. delegations:

> "Our sources in the States suggest that this came from a level at least as high as Condoleezza Rice, who is the President's National Security Adviser. [...]"

Troubling as the Guardian stories were, raising serious questions about constitutional and international legal issues, it may be that only one very small U.S. group publicly objected to the U.S. spying on U.N. delegate:

Contact: Max Obuszewski [410] 323-7200


WHO: The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore was formed for individuals willing to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to protest an invasion of Iraq. It is part of a national network organized by long-time peace groups such as the American Friends Service Committee.

On Sept. 24, 2003, the Pledge sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the National Security Agency, requesting a meeting to discuss its role in the war against Iraq and the eavesdropping on the diplomatic delegations from several United Nations Security Council nations [first reported March 2, 2003 in the London-based Observer]. Since there was no response to the letter, fourteen Pledge members went to the spy agency on Oct. 4, 2003 to seek a meeting with the director. Some forty security operatives blocked access to the visitor’s parking lot. After some dialogue about the Constitutional right of citizens to petition government officials, Marilyn Carlisle, Cindy Farquhar, Jay Gillen, Max Obuszewski and Levanah Ruthschild were arrested and charged with trespass and a failure to obey a lawful order. [...]

Let's expect much more will become public in the coming days on NSA's surveillance of American citizens. We have good reason to believe the story published in Thursday's New York Times is really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, one that may further sink the failing Bush administration.

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